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How to Help Your Child Cope With A Divorce

Divorce and separation can have a significant impact on children of any age. Children may experience trauma and overwhelming feelings due to divorce or separation. Some may wrongly blame themselves and feel guilty. Others may exhibit behavioral problems or a decline in academic performance. Conflict can also create anxiety and cognitive dissonance in children, leading them to align with one parent or seek unhealthy outlets to express their emotions. Understanding your child’s emotions and equipping yourself with coping tools are essential for guiding them through this major life change. Here are ten things you can do to help your child cope with a divorce.

  1. Stay involved in your child’s life.

When you are not invested or don’t make time for your child, they feel unimportant. Your child wants both parents to be a part of their life. Make sure your child knows how much you love them. Make some time in your schedule to plan fun activities or spend quality one-on-one time. 

  1. Work hard to co-parent.

When you fight, especially about a child, they will blame themselves and think they’ve done something wrong. This leads to feelings of guilt or depression. Try to keep your child out of the middle of arguments by discussing things when they aren’t present. Discuss things directly with the other parent instead of relaying information through the child.

  1. Be supportive of the time your child spends with the other parent.

Encourage your child to enjoy time with the other parent and new, extended family (if the other parent has started a new relationship or remarried).

  1. Limit negative things said about the other parent.

If you are saying derogatory things about the other parent, this forces a child to feel like they need to agree with you or take sides. Don’t blame the other parent.  

  1. Communicate honestly.

Children deserve to know the truth about why you are getting a divorce, but simplify it. Plan ahead and carefully relay the necessary information. If possible, tell the child together. Explain the upcoming changes with living arrangements, activities, school routine, etc.

  1. Help your child express their feelings.

It is crucial to listen to your child. Encourage them to be honest and acknowledge their feelings. Talking about divorce may be an ongoing process. Let your children know that the divorce is not their fault. It is normal for them to feel or express anger, resentment, depression or anxiety. These feelings should gradually fade over time.

  1. Let them know everything is going to be okay.

Change is hard. Reassure them that even though there will be some changes in their schedules and daily routines, it is possible to adapt and settle into a new normal, even if it takes time. The more you communicate with your children about their feelings, the less difficult it will be for them to acclimate.

  1. Keep routines intact.

Establish consistency and structure in the child’s schedule. This gives your child a sense of stability and control when other aspects of their life change. However, don’t let them rebel or break the rules. They long for stability in a situation that is not.

  1. Take care of yourself.

Take time for your own self-care. Find productive ways to cope with your personal circumstances by exercising, eating healthy, keeping in touch with friends and family, and writing in a journal. You could even join a support group, try out therapy, and more.

  1. Consider counseling.

If your child is overwhelmed by the divorce, seek professional help. A counselor or therapist can reassure you and your child and establish a framework for healing and hope for the future.